Why You Need Failure in Your Life
Failure is a word no one wants to hear. You are a failure, you failed a test, your failed marriage, none of those phrases bring warm and fuzzy feelings of happiness to mind. Despite that very true fact, I am going to explain why failure is something you need in your life. It may not be the most pleasant part of life, but failure and learning how to deal well with it is essential part of leading a happy life.
The first thing I want to talk about is what failure really is, and for that I will once again consult good old Miriam Webster. Miriam Webster defines failure as “a lack of success” and I think that is a good working definition of failure. I would like you to take note of one very important thing in that definition, it is in the present tense. Which means it does not define your future.
Failure is only what has just happened, it does not mean that you will continue to fail, or continue to lack success. It simply means that when you tried something, it didn’t work out how you planned it.
Steve Jobs is well-known for being the founder of Apple computers, but did you also know he got fired from Apple in 1985? Did you know that after being a millionaire at age 23, he had lost almost all of it after leaving Apple? In 2005 Job’s is quoted as saying “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life”
Albert Einstein was slow to talk, dropped out of high school and failed his first attempt to get into The Polytechnic school in Zurich. Not an amazing start to life, however in later life he was considered a genius and in 1922 he won the Nobel prize for his theory of relativity. Mr. Einstein is quoted as saying “Failure is success in progress”
Walt Disney went bankrupt when he tried to start Laugh-O-Gram studios and he was fired from a Missouri newspaper for ‘not being creative enough’. Not bad for a guy that went on to build a cinematic empire. Walt Disney appreciated his early failures and even gave them a large credit to his success when he said “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid. I’ve never had the feeling I couldn’t walk out and get a job doing something”
And this is just three examples, every successful person has failed at something, and often that something is what they ended up becoming successful at.
Why Failure Helps You
Failure is the precursor to success, when you fail it means that you have done one very important thing. You tried. That means you are off the couch, engaged in life and out there going after something. Great job!
I can hear you saying, “yea, great I tried, but I failed, so what?” Yes, failing sucks, and it sucks bad enough that you don’t want to do it again. Failing motivates. If you read all of the previous quotes you will see that these people didn’t say “well great I am a failure I think I will go sit on my couch and sulk” these people said, “well that sucked, what did I do wrong, and how can I do it better?”
How to use Failure to Your Advantage
Failure is an opportunity to learn. When you fail at something you have to dissect it to see what was good and what wasn’t so good.
- What went right? Start with this question no matter your endeavor. Failed marriage, failed class, failed job whatever it is there had to be at least one or two things that did go right.
- Where did it start to go wrong? This is a very critical point to pinpoint, where did things start to go awry? When did you start to feel things go a little sideways?
- Did you make any changes? When you started feeling things go bad, did you make any changes at that point? What effect did those changes have? Did they help for a little bit, make things worse?
- What things could you do differently to change the outcome? Could you have submitted your manuscript in a different format? Could you have hired an editor before your submitted it to a publishing house? Could you have worked a little more or a little less?
Once you have dissected the failure, you can use that information to make the changes to do it better the next time. Each failure is an opportunity to gain information about yourself and the situation at hand. Information is power, don’t lose it by throwing the failure out the window and not taking a good hard look at the things that went right and the things that went wrong.
Two TED Talks on Failure
If you would like to hear some real live people tell their stories of failure to success, these two TED talks are perfect.
The Beauty of Being a Misfit by Lidia Yuknavitch is a heartfelt look at Lidia’s life from the bottom up. This is one of the best talks on failure I have ever heard and I was tearing up at the end, so you might want to bring tissues.
Rethinking Failure by Barbara Corcoran is Barbara’s stories of how every time she failed at something, it brought a bigger success. Very worth a listen, even if you aren’t in a failure situation right now.
When You Fall Off the Horse…
This is the classic failure tale when you fall off of the horse, get back on again. I have fallen off a horse, actually, I have fallen off many horses sometimes multiple times. I have also gotten back on the horse after many a face plant and I am here to tell you, it is sometimes very scary. There were definitely times where I was afraid to get back on the horse. After a lifetime of riding the beasts, I have learned to dissect my falls to up my chances of keeping the horse in between me and the ground.
Failure sucks, if you are at that place in your life right now it is painful and depressing. Don’t let your failure keep you from trying again. Figure out what went wrong, make some changes and climb back on that horse. In the end, your failures will make you a success.